From Incredible India to Multi-cultural Canada: Story-telling and Kathakali

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The School of Humanities and Social Science (SoHSS) organised the event, Through Outsider’s Lens: Kathakali, Adaptations and Story-telling on 11 February 2016 to celebrate diversity, multi-culturalism and friendship through art and performance. The event was organised to introduce students to professional practitioners of theatre and dance from abroad who are working on Indian performance forms to create new meanings and styles out of the cultural hybridization.

Sylvi Belleau is a writer, actor, story-teller and director creating plays in French for children in Canada. She founded Theatre de la Source in 1985 which has produced 12 plays. She has been a storyteller in French for 25 years. She completed her Major in Film Studies with a Minor in Theatre and received a Master Degree in Dramatic Art at Universite du Quebec, Montreal. She came to India in the 1980s to learn Kathakali at Kalamandalam, Kerala. She is also trained in Grotowskian techniques, Jazz and Argentinian Tango. Currently, she is enrolled as a PhD student at Universite Laval in Quebec City in Litteratures, Stage and Screen Arts.

Gourab Ghosh, faculty from the SoHSS, moderator of the event introduced Sylvi Belleau, the speaker, to the audience. Ms Belleau shared her experiences of coming to India in the 1980s and learning Kathakali for almost two years while staying in Kerala. For her, as a foreigner to whom the language and culture were alien, the form Kathaklai opened up a new world altogether. She not only understood the Indian culture, emotions, love and hospitality through Kathakali but also found meaning of art and dance in this Indian classical form of dance. She went back to Canada with this rich and unique experience and started experimenting with the form of story-telling. For past 25 years, she has been using the mudras and techniques of Kathakali to narrate stories from both Indian mythologies and of her own compositions.

One of her popular enactments of story-telling is Hanuman which she has choreographed using the Kathakali style. She enacted from this story to an audience who found it extremely interesting to see how a foreigner so intricately enacted the story of Hanuman to an Indian audience who perhaps grew up listening to the story. Ms Belleau showed to us what it means to be cultural-hybridisation or cultural-friendship over the exchange of ideas, techniques and stories. The event was also attended by the faculty and students of the School of Communications. The SoHSS is happy to invite artists like Sylvi Belleau who exemplifies the cross-cultural connection and friendship between two different cultures and countries.

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